United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act,
Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), the Court
is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under
federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se
complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations
as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly
incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33
(1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss
Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim
against Defendant Berrien County Jail. The Court will order
service of the complaint on Defendants Leneway, Ertman, and
presently is an inmate at the Berrien County Jail (BCJ).
Plaintiff sues the BCJ and the following BCJ officials:
Deputies A. Leneway and Rick Ertman; and Sergeant Justin
alleges that, on June 17, 2019, Defendants Leneway and Ertman
escorted him to a new housing unit, Unit 2H. When he arrived
at Unit 2H, Plaintiff noticed an inmate inside the unit with
whom Plaintiff had serious problems. Plaintiff told
Defendants Leneway and Ertman that he feared for his life,
and he asked to be placed in segregation, as required by the
rules and regulations of the BCJ. Instead, Defendant Ertman
grabbed Plaintiff by the neck and slammed him to the ground.
Ertman continued to bang Plaintiff's head against the
floor. Defendant Obrien then came over and punched Plaintiff
in the face repeatedly. Defendant Leneway apparently made no
effort to intervene.
complains that he made no attempt to resist the officers, and
he states that he was charged with assaulting an officer
during the incident. He ultimately was taken to segregation,
where he had originally asked to be taken.
seeks compensatory damages. He also requests injunctive
relief in the form of a dismissal of the assault charges
Failure to State a Claim
complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it
fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what
the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355
U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain
detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's allegations
must include more than labels and conclusions.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The
court must determine whether the complaint contains
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent
to a “‘probability requirement,' . . . it
asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here
the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more
than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-that the pleader
is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill v.
Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding
that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies
to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege the violation of a right secured by the federal
Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was
committed by a person acting under color of state law.
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street
v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir.
1996). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating
federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself,
the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify
the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed.
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).
sues the BCJ, which he names as the “Berrien County
‘Jail' Sheriff Dept.” The jail is a building,
not an entity capable of being sued in its own right.
Plaintiff therefore cannot maintain an action against the
extent that Plaintiff intends to sue the Berrien County
Sheriff Department, he also fails to state a claim. The
sheriff department does not exist as a separate legal entity;
it is simply an agent of the county. Vine v. Cty. of
Ingham, 884 F.Supp. 1153, 1158 (W.D. Mich. 1995) (citing
Hughson v. Cty. of Antrim, 707 F.Supp. 304, 306
(W.D. Mich. 1988) and Bayer v. Almstadt, 185 N.W.2d
40, 44 (Mich. Ct. App. 1970)). Accordingly, the Court will
dismiss the Berrien County Sheriff Department.
construing Plaintiff's pro se complaint with all
required liberality, Haines, 404 U.S. at 520, the
Court assumes that Plaintiff intended to sue Berrien County.
Berrien County may not be held vicariously liable for the
actions of its employees under § 1983. See Connick
v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011); City of Canton
v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 392 (1989); Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 ...